Fine Foods 2021 shows an increased demand for ready-meals
The 2020 Covid lockdowns hugely increased demand for ready-meals. Instantaneously, aged care facilities, hospitals, mission kitchens and an entire house-bound household were screaming out for longer lasting pre-prepared meals. As a result, demand for technology to efficiently bulk produce and package food skyrocketed. At the recent 2021 Fine Foods Show it was clear: the lockdowns may be gone but their effects remain.
Faced with a sudden increased demand for ready-meals producers had to deliver larger batches of nutritious food – faster. They had to do so without compromising quality, nutrition or safe shelf life. But, they also had to allow for new, challenging circumstances. They were often working with fewer staff, while accommodating social distancing and increasingly strict health and safety protocols.
As a result, both food producers and their suppliers had to adapt quickly and efficiently, says Vacpack:
“Companies were under pressure to quickly but sustainably increase production of nutritious, longer-lasting meals. We realised the existing methods for preparing, packaging and distributing food lines had to change. They had to change quickly and most likely for good.”
Vacpack embraced the challenge. They focussed on creating systems to increase production and build economies of scale. This drove development of the Cook Chill system. As a result there were huge advances to the cooking Kettle and Pump Fill Station components.
Increased demand for ready-meals: the trend continues
On 7 August 2020, shortly after the initial lockdown, nzherald.co.nz published: “2020 food trends revealed: How Covid changed the way we eat”. The article stated that: “Grocery and meal delivery has become more popular since Covid-19… Some chefs even made their own meal kits so you could recreate your gourmet favourites at home”.
Now, even with the lockdowns seemingly in remission the increased demand for ready-meals has clearly stuck. In January 2021, Jonathan Milne published a newsroom.co.nz article, “Twelve changes to what we’ll eat in 2021”. The article discusses a huge growth in freezer meals. It explains how these have become popular as a way to re-create an at-home “takeaway experience”.
The article also references comments by IRI Worldwide’s Retail and Innovations Head, Debbie Simpson-Pudney. She refers to these products as ” fakeaways” and adds that, “Frozen chicken, pizzas and meat patties all showed significant growth, and the IRI Survey shows 22 percent of Kiwis are now buying more frozen food than they were pre-Covid.”
Fine Foods 2021 showed there is still an increased demand for ready-meals. This means efficient production systems also remain sought after. “We offer many systems for streamlining the bulk production, efficient packaging and effective storage of food items. We saw a huge demand for those systems at the Fine Foods Show” says Vacpack.
Cook Chill and Cooking Kettles – so hot right now
Extending the save shelf life is key to ready-meal production. To effectively extend shelf life requires effective vacuum packaging, tray lidding and skin packing processes. “This was another area in which we noted increased demand” says Vackpak. Noting, however that it was “the Cook Chill technology and cooking kettles that really stole the show.”
The Cook Chill process leads the way for large batch production and packaging. It can be used to produce many food lines including stews, soups, sauces, meat and vegetables. The large capacity Cook Chill system streamlines bulk production. This means food can be bought in bulk and pre-pared at a centralised kitchen. From there it can be stored, used on site, or delivered to satellite kitchens and end consumers.
A pivotal part of the Vacpack system is their versatile range of Dieta & Nilma kettles. These were hugely popular at the Fine Foods Show and consistently drew a crowd:
“The kettles are efficient and fully programmable. They simplify cooking processes and reduce manual labour. The kettles can cook a huge range of hot foods. They can also be used to cold mix items such as mayo’s, minced or diced meat, diced veg, dessert and pie filling. Constructed of recycled materials they are environmentally friendly, energy efficient, hygienic, ergonomic, safe and easy to pump, decant and clean.”
Vacpack also offers Pump Fill Stations or Vertical Form Fill Sealing machines to tie in seamlessly with the kettles. This means the process can be manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic. There is a system to accommodate all kitchens from the smallest café to the largest centralised commercial kitchen.
Vacpack designs systems and provides training for both large and small businesses. They want to ensure practical solutions are successfully achieved so they become part of everyday food handling, production, packaging and storage practices.
At the show it was clear that they were right on the mark. Vacpack credits this success to the continued support and input from their clients:
“It is our client producers who encourage and drive our innovation. We were blown away by the huge popularity of our systems at the Fine Foods Show. Our Cook Chill system and demo cooking kettle especially drew a huge crowd. We have been inundated with enquiries. Thank you for everyone who stopped by our stand to chat and check it out.
At Vacpack we are always happy to share our knowledge and advice. We are always available to chat about options for both small and large production facilities. Thank you for having our backs, we have yours too.”
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